September 19

Preparation Is Key When Becoming a Certified Food Protection Manager


A Guide on What To Expect and How To Prepare for the Certified Food Protection Manager Exam

While food safety might not be the first thing that got you into the service industry, it’s at the core of running any food business.

The CDC estimates that 48 million Americans get sick, 128 thousand are hospitalized, and three thousand die annually due to food-borne illness. Lack of food safety procedures is not something to take lightly, especially when you’re in a managerial position within a food establishment. 

In most states, laws require that food service establishments have at least one Certified Food Protection Manager on the clock during business hours to avoid outbreaks. 

Regardless, you don’t want your business associated with getting people sick. Even if certification isn’t required, seeking accreditation is a responsible step to running a clean and safe establishment. 

To help you prepare for the certification exam, we spoke with Trust20, an accredited Food Protection Manager Training and Exam provider. So let’s get into it. 

What To Expect in the Food Protection Manager Exam

The Format of the Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM) Exam

Exam formats are not the same across states. Some states require you to take the exam in person, while others will let you do it online—and some have additional requirements beyond the exam to become certified. 

Before doing anything, check in with your local health authority to understand what’s required to receive valid credentials. 

If you’re lucky, you can take the exam online. In most states, you must schedule a proctored exam with a provider accredited by the Conference for Food Protection (CFP) and the ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB)—like Trust20. 

When taking the exam, you’ll have one 2-hour attempt to answer 80 multiple-choice questions with 75% accuracy or higher to obtain your certification.

With Trust20’s CFPM exam, you’ll get your results upon completion—they’ll also send you your results via email within 24 hours.

What the Heck Is a Proctored Exam?

As mentioned, all CFPM exams are proctored.  This means someone needs to monitor you to ensure:

  1. You’re actually you
  2. You’re not cheating
  3. You’re not duplicating content—you know, to make a cheat sheet for later.

And you can’t just say your grandma, friend, or partner is there keeping you honest. You have to schedule your exam to be proctored by an approved provider. 

Depending on whether you’re required to take the exam in person or can do it online, the requirements may be different.  

In-person proctoring requires that you take the exam at a physical location with a designated person monitoring you and potentially others taking the exam. 

Virtual options include remote proctoring, which is online and live. You’ll need a solid internet connection and a computer with a webcam and microphone. Your proctor will watch you through a video call and may ask that you share your screen. 

According to Trust20, there is an emerging technology called Automated Online Proctoring, where candidates are recorded during their testing session. After submitting the exam, AI reviews the recording for signs of cheating. 

They state that this is a pretty new technology and hasn’t undergone many studies for effectiveness.

Trust20’s CFPM exam requires remote proctoring scheduled through their partner, Meazure Learning, the world’s largest certified remote proctoring and support staff network.

Passing or Failing the CFPM Exam

If you pass the exam, you’ll receive a certificate valid for five years. 

You can retest if you fail the exam and need certification. The policies around retesting are at the discretion of the accredited provider you use, so be sure to look into their requirements. 

With Trust20’s CFPM exam, testers can purchase and take the exam twice within 30 days. If you fail your second attempt, you’ll have to wait 60 days before you can buy and retake the exam.  

The Topics Covered in the CFPM Exam

“Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM) exams are designed to test if individuals have the skills and knowledge required of a Food Protection Manager,” Trust20 shared. “Questions may be related to hazard analysis critical control points (HACCP), cross-contamination prevention techniques, regulations set forth by the FDA’s Food Code, and staff training requirements.”

The CFPM Exam Covers: 

  • Training
  • Food Safety Management Systems
  • Cleaning & Sanitation
  • Facilities & Infrastructure
  • Personnel Health & Hygiene
  • Environmental Controls
  • Legal & Regulatory Compliance

Preparing for the Certified Food Protection Manager Exam

Tips for Studying  

Take a CFPM Training Course.
A training course is probably a good idea if you’re gearing up to take the CFPM exam for the first time or are feeling rusty about the topics likely to be covered. 

Seeking a training program will save you time researching local regulations yourself. Additionally, the curriculum is usually presented in an approachable and entertaining way to help you absorb the information. 

Trust20 offers an affordable Food Manager Training Course divided into ten modules and a final assessment—which results in a certificate of completion but is not the Food Protection Manager Certificate. Think of it like a practice test for the actual exam. 

The program covers everything a responsible Food Protection Manager should know and has helpful resources that you can reuse to study as much as you need to feel confident in taking the CFPM exam. 

Practice on the job.
One of the best ways to absorb new knowledge is to put it into practice or teach a colleague. 

If you’re already working in food service, start implementing concepts at work and share your knowledge with your co-workers. If you’re not in food service yet—you can still practice food safety at home!

Everything you’re learning is vital to ensure your business handles food safely, so there are only benefits to starting as you’re studying. 

Assess and test your weak spots.
As mentioned, if you purchase a training program, you’ll likely receive helpful materials to help you study critical features of Food Safety. Be sure to review these often leading up to your exam date. 

You can also research local food safety regulations online and build a sheet highlighting the key points. 

As you study, recognize and prioritize the areas you are tripping on. You want to be confident walking into that exam, so focus on the things that aren’t sticking with you.

Preparing for the Proctored Portion

If you’re taking the CFPM in person, you don’t need to worry too much about preparing beforehand. So long as you don’t have suspicious scribbles all over your hands, notebooks that don’t belong in your testing space, or check your bag every few minutes. 

On the other hand, there are a lot of technical issues that could occur when taking the exam online. Planning and prepping your space for the proctor is essential. 

Trust20 has an in-depth article on preparing your space for the proctor you should read before your scheduled exam, but we’ll highlight a few good points here for brevity!

  1. Find a location that offers privacy and good lighting.
    To avoid issues, it’s best to be in a private and well-lit room where the proctor can easily see your face, desk, and the walls around you.
  2. Make sure to clean your workspace.
    Your proctor can terminate an exam if they believe you are cheating. So, it’s best to tidy your space and remove prohibited items like electronic devices, food, toys, and any suspicious items like books or paper.
  3. Download Google Chrome or Firefox (or both).
    In addition to a strong internet connection on the day of the exam, consider downloading Google Chrome and Firefox if you don’t have both already. Some exam platforms aren’t compatible with all browsers. Multiple options are a great way to pivot and avoid technical issues. 

As a leader in your business, it’s up to you to set the tone for food safety. Obtaining the knowledge and credentials to help create a safe, clean, and professional work environment only builds employee and consumer confidence and loyalty in your business. 

It’s worth investing in your career advancement and education by taking the CFPM exam. Check here if you’d like to learn more about Trust20’s training course or online exam. You can visit their blog for more helpful information, like overcoming test anxiety

Once you’re certified and ready to apply for a fantastic management role—or just need to hire a few outstanding staff members, visit Poached for all your employment needs

About the author


Ashley McNally likes to cook, loves to bake, and is always dreaming of her next meal. With over 13 years of experience working in various roles within a restaurant — McNally has made a home in hospitality.


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